‘They had my back’: Program prevents homeowners from foreclosure
New London — Michael Peery, an oil painter and adjunct professor of applied fine arts, was taking down his Christmas tree lights on his front porch on a windy Monday evening in January, as the holiday season had wrapped up and the new year was brought in.
It won’t be the last time he’ll have to take down those lights, as he’ll be able to celebrate future holidays, knowing he owns his home.
He was one of the 14 New London County residents who received an award from the MyCTHousing program, which prevented his home from being foreclosed.
Peery, 58, who teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island College, and Three Rivers Community College, lives with his dog Max in a charming single-family home built in 1907 near Greens Harbor Park.
Coming from Idaho 21 years ago, Peery fell in love with New London and decided to buy a home in 2005.
“I loved the charm,” he said.
During the pandemic, Peery found it increasingly difficult to find employment. The colleges he taught at regularly began closing down and reducing staff. As the pandemic continued into the summer, Peery was receiving no opportunities to earn an income from teaching.
“In March of 2020, they shut all the schools down. Nobody knew what was happening,” he said. “I had nothing. I didn’t pay my mortgage from April, May, and June.”
Peery is back to teaching at the colleges, allowing him to resume his $1,290 a month mortgage payments.
The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority has received $123 million from the Treasury’s Homeowner Assistance Fund. The federal funds assist homeowners throughout Connecticut who are at risk of foreclosure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents can receive up to $50,000 in assistance.
Homeowners who are seeking to apply to the MyHomeCT program need to make less than 150 percent of the area median income, which is $168,900 for a household of four; be the primary resident of the property; hold a mortgage that has a principal balance at or below the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan limits ― which currently stands at $726,200 ― and be delinquent on mortgages no earlier than October 2019.
Applicants who were experiencing financial hardship that was worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic are also eligible.
In the third quarter of 2022, there were a total of 1,205 foreclosure filings in Connecticut, according to ATTOM, a property data organization.
MyHomeCT has collaborated with local partners who specialize in housing assistance to ensure that homeowners have local help throughout the process. The Housing Resource Center at the Homeless Hospitality Center of New London has assisted 43 homeowners throughout New London County to apply for foreclosure avoidance assistance. As of this past week, 14 applicants had received awards, allowing them to keep their homes.
The program has assisted 1,921 homeowners throughout the state, distributing almost $45 million as of January 17, 2023.
In early 2022, Peery received $50,000, which cleared his previous delinquent balance.
“I can’t even describe it. It was a miracle, really,” he said. “I would’ve lost my house.”
During the foreclosure process, homeowners cannot make payments on their mortgage balance until they completely pay off the delinquent balance. Peery did everything to try and make enough money to keep his home, even changing professions temporarily.
“I decided to take a year off from teaching to go do ironwork in Washington State,” he said.
As time continued, he found it harder to work out an agreement with the bank to keep his home. His neighbor sent him multiple links to programs that might help him avoid foreclosure. He called the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, who told him that they were expecting a grant that would assist homeowners affected by the pandemic who were facing foreclosure.
When the application came out, Rain Daugherty, the housing counseling coordinator at the Homeless Hospitality Center, helped him fill it out.
“Rain made sure all the paperwork was filled in,” he said. “I knew I could relax.”
“Helping people access MyHomeCT foreclosure prevention funds to resolve a COVID-related hardship is a rewarding way to spend my days," Daugherty said.
Peery urges other homeowners who might be in the same situation to reach out for help.
“Be proactive. Don’t sit by and let things happen. These departments throughout the Connecticut state government are really here to help. They had my back,” he said.
Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis. Awards will be distributed until September 30, 2025 or until the funds have been depleted. To apply, visit the MyHomeCT website and register an account by answering a series of questions. Each question varies from your income to the county your home is located in.
– Visit the CHFA website section on assisting homeowners at risk of foreclosure.
– Contact the State of Connecticut Department of Banking Foreclosure Hotline at 1-877-472-8313 for guidance and resources regarding foreclosure cases.
– Utilize the Connecticut State Website for tips on how to avoid foreclosure.